Excerpts from The Study Qur’an: A New Translation and Commentary

These translations from S. H. Nasr’s The Study Qur’an (2017) accompany two artworks on view in the exhibition Africa & Byzantium. Come to the galleries to see them in person between April 14 and July 21, 2024. 

Two pages from a Quran
Double Folio from a Qur’an, late 600s–early 700s. Unknown calligrapher. Aghlabid dynasty, Kairouan (Kairouan, Tunisia). Brown ink on vellum; 49 x 22.8 cm. Musée National d’Art Islamique de Raqqada, Kairouan, Inv. Rubti 38

Chapter of Prostration (Surat al-Sajdah)

“[12] Couldst thou but see when the guilty bend their heads low before their Lord: ‘Our Lord! We have seen and we have heard; so send us back that we may work righteousness. Truly we are certain.’ [13] And had We willed, We would have given every soul its guidance. But the Word from Me comes due: ‘I shall surely fill Hell with jinn and men all together!’ [14] So taste [the punishment] for having forgotten the meeting with this your Day! Verily, We have forgotten you! And taste the punishment everlasting for that which you used to do. [15] Truly they believe in Our signs who when reminded of them fall prostrate and hymn the praise of their Lord and do not wax arrogant, [16] whose sides shun [their] beds, calling upon their Lord out of fear and hope, and who spend from that which We have provided them. [17] No soul knows what comfort is kept hidden for it as a recompense for that which they used to do. [18] Is one who believes like one who is iniquitous? They are not equal. [19] As for those who believe and perform righteous deeds, theirs shall be Gardens of refuge, as a welcome for that which they used to do. [20] And as for those who are iniquitous, their refuge is the Fire. Whenever they desire to go forth therefrom, they are returned unto it, and it is said unto them, ‘Taste the punishment of the Fire that you used to deny!’” 

32:12–20, p. 1851–52

Chapter of Confederates (Surat al-Ahzab)

“[5] Call them after their fathers. That is more equitable before God. And if you do not know their fathers, then they are your brethren in religion and your clients. There is no blame upon you for being mistaken therein, but only for that which your hearts intend. And God is Forgiving, Merciful. [6] The Prophet is closer to the believers than they are to themselves, and his wives are their mothers. Family relations are closer to one another, according to the Book of God, than are the believers and the emigrants. Nonetheless, you should act rightly toward your friends. That is inscribed in the Book. [7] And [remember] when We made with the prophets their covenant, and with thee, and with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus the son of Mary; We made with them a solemn covenant, [8] that the truthful may be questioned concerning their truthfulness. And for the disbelievers He has prepared a painful punishment. [9] O you who believe! Remember the Blessing of God upon you when the hosts came upon you and We sent against them a wind and hosts that you saw not—and God sees whatsoever you do—[10] when they came upon you from above you and below you, and when eyes swerved and hearts reached into throats, and you thought many things regarding God.”

33:5–10, p. 1867–68

A single page of a Quran
Folio from a Qur’an, early 800s. Unknown calligrapher. Aghlabid dynasty, Kairouan (Kairouan, Tunisia). Ink on parchment and decorated vellum; 31 x 22.6 cm. Musée National d’Art Islamique de Raqqada, Kairouan, P 208

Chapter of the Land (Surat al-Balad)

“[10] and guide him upon the two highways? [11] Yet he has not assailed the steep pass. [12] And what will apprise thee of the steep pass? [13] [It is] the freeing of a slave, [14] or giving food at a time of famine [15] to an orphan near of kin, [16] or an indigent, clinging to the dust, [17] while being one of those who believe and exhort one another to patience, and exhort one another to compassion. [18] Those are the companions of the right. [19] And those who disbelieve in Our signs, they are the companions of the left. [20] Upon them is a Fire enclosed.”

90:10–20, p. 2763–64 

Chapter of the Sun (Surat al-Shams)

“[1] By the sun and its morning brightness; [2] by the moon when following it; [3] by the day when disclosing it; [4] by the night when enshrouding it; [5] by the sky and the One Who established it; [6] by the earth and the One Who spread it.”

91:1–6, p. 2769 


Nasr, S. H., ed. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary. New York: Harper Collins, 2017.